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From Promise to Practice: Employers and AI Compliance in Federal Contracts

By Debra Milstein Gardner - May 10, 2024 9:31:15 AM - 6 MINS READ

President Biden's Executive Order signed six months ago marks a pivotal moment in America's approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI). This directive not only embraces AI's potential but also prioritizes the management of its risks. With a clear focus on safety, equity and innovation, federal agencies were tasked with safeguarding workers' rights, protecting consumers, and upholding civil rights amidst the widespread adoption of AI technologies.

To this end, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently unveiled new guidance on AI, emphasizing its relevance in federal contractors' employment processes. On its AI landing page, the OFCCP provides valuable resources and guidance for federal contractors navigating the complexities of AI in their employment processes. This dedicated platform serves as a centralized hub for accessing essential information and tools to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity laws while harnessing the benefits of AI technologies

Key resources available on OFCCP's AI landing page include:

Federal Contractor Guide- Artificial Intelligence and Equal Employment Opportunity: This comprehensive guide offers insights, answers to common questions, and suggested practices to clarify federal contractors' legal obligations regarding AI usage in employment decisions. It serves as a practical resource for promoting equal employment opportunity and mitigating potential risks associated with AI integration.

Joint Statement on Enforcement of Civil Rights, Fair Competition, Consumer Protection, And Equal Opportunity Laws in Automated Systems: OFCCP's endorsement of this joint statement signifies its commitment to protecting against unlawful bias in automated systems, including AI. By pledging to utilize its legal authorities vigorously, OFCCP reaffirms its dedication to safeguarding workers' rights and promoting fairness in AI-driven decision-making processes.

Updated Combined Scheduling Letter and Itemized Listing: OFCCP's updated compliance review process now includes requirements for federal contractors to provide documentation of systems used to recruit, screen, and hire, including AI, algorithms, and other technology-based selection procedures. This enhancement ensures thorough evaluation of AI systems' impact on equal employment opportunity, fostering accountability and transparency.

OFCCP's AI landing page equips federal contractors to effectively navigate AI challenges and opportunities in employment practices, reinforcing its commitment to equal opportunity and discrimination prevention. Providing clarity on legal obligations and advocating best practices to mitigate bias and discrimination, OFCCP emphasizes transparency and fairness in AI-driven decisions. Acknowledging the dynamic nature of AI technologies, OFCCP offers practical insights to address complexities and comply with evolving regulatory frameworks

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For employers and government contractors, these developments underscore the importance of staying informed and proactive in addressing the implications of AI in their operations. Here are some key takeaways:

Compliance is Paramount: Federal contractors should be wary of the potential risks associated with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their employment practices. Specifically, they should be cautious of the risk of bias and discrimination inherent in AI systems. Without proper safeguards and transparency measures, AI algorithms can perpetuate or even amplify existing biases present in the data used for training. Additionally, federal contractors should be mindful of the legal obligations surrounding equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination laws, ensuring that AI-driven decision-making processes adhere to these regulations.

Transparency and Accountability: Employers using AI systems should prioritize transparency and accountability in their processes. Understanding how AI algorithms operate and their potential impact on decision-making is essential in safeguarding against unlawful bias and discrimination.

Assess Risk: Employers should conduct thorough assessments of AI systems used in employment-related decisions to evaluate the risk of bias and discrimination. Regular reviews and audits can help identify and address any potential issues before they escalate.

Promote Equity: Prioritize equity and fairness in AI deployment strategies. By integrating principles of diversity and inclusion into AI development and implementation processes, employers can help mitigate biases and promote equal opportunities for all individuals.

In the evolving landscape of employment practices, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents both promises and challenges. Recent actions and guidance from federal agencies shed light on the importance of navigating this terrain with diligence, particularly for employers and government contractors.

OutSolve will provide updates as new guidance and information becomes available. We encourage you to contact us with any questions regarding our affirmative action compliance or Diversity, Equity & Inclusion MIRROR™ services.

Debra Milstein Gardner

Debra Milstein Gardner has worked in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action (AA) space for the past 43 years while working in the public and private sectors in various human resources compliance roles. She began her career working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then went to the Marriott Corporation for nine years working in EEO, Affirmative Action and field human resource roles. In 1990, Debra founded Workplace Dynamics LLC providing EEO, AA, and DEI consulting services to government contractors. In 2016, Debra sold the affirmative action portion of Workplace Dynamics to OutSolve LLC and works part-time as a Market Analyst. Debra is a sports fanatic, routing for the Baltimore Ravens and all Virginia Tech Hokie teams. She loves to hike and boat in her mountain and lake community of Lake Lure, NC.

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